DC Influencer: Thomas Collamore, US Chamber of Commerce

Thomas Collamore, SVP of communications and strategy at the US Chamber of Commerce, talks to Jaimy Lee about uncertainty in the economy and addressing the regulatory environment with the Obama administration.

Thomas Collamore, SVP of communications and strategy at the US Chamber of Commerce, talks to Jaimy Lee about uncertainty in the economy and addressing the regulatory environment with the Obama administration.

Is the “Campaign for Free Enterprise” as necessary now as it was a year ago?
The focus will remain consistent on supporting policies and initiatives that promote the free market and free enterprise and lead to creation of jobs, giving business the flexibility in the marketplace to create jobs and take risks. The president was here February 7 and he was talking about, “Business, let's get back in the game. Let's get off the sidelines and invest in America.” We agree with that, but the reason business has been reticent to invest more has been the regulatory and tax uncertainty the administration brought in to the system.

Chamber CEO Tom Donohue said Obama's speech was a good change in tone.
The tone is important. There was a feeling that the business community's concerns weren't being heard. The president is making an effort to show he's hearing the business community and its concerns and is trying to adjust his policies accordingly.

We agree with the president that overhauling the corporate tax code is a worthy goal and we certainly agree with him that making the R&D tax credit permanent is a worthy goal. However, we need a conversation across the board on comprehensive tax reform. We can't have the government picking winners and losers in various industries. There must be a level playing field. We can't do this without talking about international tax reform so that multinational companies that are creating jobs in the US and are also robust traders internationally aren't getting double-taxed back home.

The president talked about his commitment to dealing with outdated and unnecessary regulations. We agree that most regulations are necessary to provide the rules of the road to operate in a complex society. We need to rein in the excessive and costly regulations that are harming the economy and keeping business investment on the sidelines.

Last year, the big message was for jobs. Is talking about the role of innovation for US companies a more effective message for policymakers?
The innovation message is an important one. It also ties directly to education and the US' competitiveness with the rest of the world. If we don't pursue some of these initiatives the administration is pushing, we're going to lose ground competitively around the world. Innovation is a very important concept and message to talk about.

Our primary focus will still be pushing policies to create the millions of new American jobs that we need to move our country and economy forward. The jobs will be different as companies being to learn how to do more with fewer people. Those people need a different educational basis and must be able to think differently as we innovate.

We're focused on expanding trade, but we're also focused on infrastructure. The whole economic foundation of our country – roads, bridges, rail, mass transit, airports – has to be modernized. Innovation will be key in that process. It will also help us be competitive around the world. It will facilitate huge potential job creation there, reduce our trade and budget deficit, and increase our own security.

Are public private partnerships, such as the Walmart's announcement with the first lady about a new health initiative, becoming more important?
The first lady's initiative is a laudable one and Walmart has the ability to influence other companies to get on board and change their manufacturing processes and their products. The healthy initiative ties right into America's competitiveness and being fit to compete around the world.

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